Risk communication and shared decision making in the care of patients with osteoporosis

J Clin Densitom. 2010 Oct-Dec;13(4):335-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jocd.2010.06.005. Epub 2010 Jul 21.


Health maintenance and disease management require vigilance in assessing risk, communicating risk, and balancing the expected benefits of therapeutic interventions with potential harms. The evaluation of skeletal health includes identification of clinical risk factors for fracture, bone density testing in appropriate patients, and the use of validated algorithms for estimating the probability of fracture. To reduce the burden of osteoporotic fractures, patients at risk for fracture must be identified and treated with effective agents that are taken regularly, correctly, and for a sufficient length of time to achieve the desired benefit. These goals may be enhanced by shared decision making, a process by which the clinician and the patient share all applicable information and negotiate a plan of treatment that is acceptable to both. As an educator and a partner in making treatment decisions, the clinician must be familiar with the medical evidence and able to discuss complex medical information in a manner that is understood by the patient, with appropriate consideration of the patient's expectations, beliefs, and concerns. After treatment is started, risk communication, patient education, and shared decision making should be continued in an effort to maintain good compliance and persistence with therapy. Further study is needed to identify and validate optimal risk communication tools for the care of patients with osteoporosis. Challenges to shared decision making include competition from other health care priorities for limited patient encounter time during office visits, poor reimbursement, insufficient knowledge of the medical evidence, inadequate communication skills, and cognitive/affective disorders limiting patient participation in making treatment decisions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Risk Assessment*